Introduction: LED Zippo Flashlight

Picture of LED Zippo Flashlight

This is a simple step by step guide to make your own Zippo Lighter LED Flashlight.

A few years ago Zippo had a flashlight version of their amazing classic lighter. These Zippo flashlights never really caught on, most likely because they were dim and the batteries didn't last. None the less, I thought this was a good idea and wanted to find a way to do it better.
Now I know what some of you are thinking, "Why would some one take apart a perfectly good Zippo?"  I have multiple lighters and I don't smoke. The only thing I use a lighter for is igniting fireworks and campfires. 
So, why not make an awesome flashlight ? The Zippo Lighter is an American icon and I wanted to put a new spin on it. Here is my idea, creation, and Instructables project. I hope you enjoy.  

For more information on LEDs please see the Wikipedia page ( HERE ). Truly amazing stuff. 

This is my second version of this project. If you would like to see my prototype and first try at this idea please see the last step. 

Step 1: Parts and Tools

Picture of Parts and Tools

You will need the following parts:
- Zippo Lighter
- Super bright white LED x2
- Mini Switch (I used a mini momentary switch from Radio Shack)
- Button cell battery x2
- Small gauge wire (I tore apart some old cat5 cable)
- Shrink tube
- Super glue
- Electrical tape

- Soldering Iron and solder
- Helping hands 
- Rotary cutting tool (Dremel Tool) or hacksaw
- Ruler 
- X-acto knife
- Pliers 
- Scissors
- Voltage meter (probably won't need this but I always have it around) 
- Small drill bit or needle file 

You may not need all of these tools but they may come in handy. 

Step 2: Disassembly and Zippo Modification

Picture of Disassembly and Zippo Modification

1- Disassembling the Zippo is extremely easy. Pull the lighter mechanism out of the case like you would if you were going to refill the fluid. The screw on the bottom comes out and the felt part slides off. Then you will find lots of cotton and the wick, this needs to go too. Save these parts you can use them later to repair other Zippos. 

2- Next, we need to remove the flint wheel to make way for the switch that will turn the LED on and off.
Use the rotary cutter (Dremel Tool) or hack saw to carefully cut off the tabs that hold the flint wheel but don't cut into the wick guard. We need this part for the switch to tighten down to.  

Step 3: LED Insert Assembly

Picture of LED Insert Assembly

Space is everything and we need to get not only the switch but also the LEDs in the small wick guard. 
1- Start with the LEDs. First use one of the button cell batteries to test the LEDs to make sure they are not dead before you start. Cut down the leads so that they can be soldered together in parallel. Be sure to keep in mind the polarity of the LEDs soldering one of them backwards will cause it to not work. Remember that the flat side of the LED is the cathode (negative) side. This is where this project gets tricky. Soldering these small parts without giving yourself 2nd degree burns requires a steady hand. I should have had a bit less coffee the day that I soldered this up but I got it to work eventually. 

2- The next step is to attach the negative wire that will run to the battery. 

3- Then solder the switch in place under the LEDs. 

4- Attach the positive lead that will run to the battery. 

At this point get the batteries and give it a test run. Both LEDs should light up at the push of a button. 

5- I added some heat shrink tube and super glue for good measure. The LED assembly is fragile and I did not want it to break or come loose in my pocket later on.  Give the glue some time to dry before you move on. It is  horribly uncomfortable if you get it on your fingers and if any super glue is smeared on the top of the LEDs they will not look right when you are done.  I let mine dry for an hour and a half while I polished the Zippo case and had a snack.

With this part done (and dry if you used glue) we are ready to put the mini LED assembly inside the wick guard of the Zippo.

Step 4: Put It All Together

Picture of Put It All Together

Now you can put the LED assembly together with the lighter.
This is where I ran into a problem. The wire I used was too large to fit through the hole that the wick came through. No big problem, I used a small drill bit and a needle file to widen the hole slightly. It is important to note that this hole is actually a grommet which I believe holds the whole thing together. So don't widen too much or the grommet will break. 

Now we can put it all together. 
The wires go through the hole that the wick once passed through and the whole thing should fit together. The nut gets tightened to the front opening to hold the switch in place. 
The wires can then be connected to the battery with a bit of tape or shrink. 

Step 5: The Results

Picture of The Results

If it all came together the right you should have a working Zippo Lighter flashlight.  Show it off at the bar, tell all your friends, and please let me know what you think.

As I said at the beginning this was not my first attempt. Below are some pictures of my original prototype. I made it out of an old beat up Zippo at this point i put the switch at the bottom and used only one blue LED. 

Instructable created by RJ Koharik


sashadistan (author)2010-09-19

I have (literally) just completed this project. Thanks for the cool ideas. I ended up threading my positive wire through the other hole below the switch and you can barely see it. My solder joins were quite large.

This was my first electronic project since I was about 12 and now I am training to become a DT teacher, so thank you for helping me to improve my electronic knowledge.

Boyscout201 (author)sashadistan2010-09-19

Awesome, I'm glad I could help someone. I'de like to see your work.

tutdude98 (author)2014-08-09

you can get 400mah rechargeable li ion that fits perfectly in zippo

TheCommander (author)2014-02-11

Next step...rechargable :-)

beju0506 (author)2014-02-09

Hey! I just wanted to say thanks for posting this! I really liked the idea, so I combined it with another project that I came across to make this:

Thanks again for the inspiration! :)

nicholasm (author)2013-01-10

kipkay ...~

Adambowker98 (author)2012-07-04

This is litterally the exact same thing that /YouTube user Kipkay did.

sn0manX (author)2010-09-15

about 14 years ago zippo actually made these. my dad worked on the machine that made them. it was built at classic manufacturing in Minnesota. i was like 3 and i put one together by myself XD

Boyscout201 (author)sn0manX2010-09-16

that is awesome. I wanna see this machine. I wonder if there is an episode of How It's Made for the Zippo?

Mrcheese15 (author)Boyscout2012012-03-09

this is really late but yes there is a how its made for zippos

Boyscout201 (author)Mrcheese152012-03-09

Cool I Must see this !

Heywasup (author)Boyscout2012012-05-15

hey, i know im a bit late on this but i need some help with my take on this project. my lighter isnt a traditional zippo and theres some major differences and modifications that need to be done to the wiring. im just a beginner at this stuff so if you could spare some time and help me out it would be great.

Mrcheese15 (author)Boyscout2012012-03-09

sn0manX (author)Boyscout2012011-03-27

i think they discontinued them soon after initial production, just werent selling i guess. i actually have one somewhere at my grandparents. i gotta find that thing

Heywasup (author)2012-05-14

i know im a bit late on this but i need some help with my take on this project. my lighter isnt a traditional zippo and theres some major differences and modifications that need to be done to the wiring. could some1 spare some time and help me out?

octochan (author)2010-09-16

This is great! I don't smoke, and I don't see the point of keeping a filled Zippo around just to let all the fuel evaporate. I want to keep the striker wheel as a switch somehow, though.

gg1220 (author)octochan2012-01-09

The flint wheel is designed to have a bit of play when you push down on it, so you could probably find a push button switch that engages at a very small distance and put it where the flint is supposed to go, or if that doesn't work you could try drilling out the wheel a bit more to add a little more play and see what happens.

molyca1986 (author)2011-07-09

Exactly what type of batteries did you use? All it says in the list is button cells...

Boyscout201 (author)molyca19862011-07-24

the exact batteries I used ...
2x Lithium CR1220 3V

ggourley1 (author)2011-07-20

Just finished my LED zippo. Created a nc switch with a push on top of the inside of the lid. Wonderful idea! I can't wait to build my next one

tomwinget (author)2011-01-05

awesome, did mine over the weekend, only needed one led :)

Boyscout201 (author)tomwinget2011-03-27

Awesome Job!

wrightway (author)2010-12-16

Great instructable! I've spent many long cold weekends out camping unprepared realizing that my zippo was out of fluid and my flashlight was still at home on the kitchen table, seeing as I always have my Zippo around this is a great idea. I'm gonna play around with it abit, try to modify it to see if I could do what MadManMoe64 did and have it flashlight AND lighter in one. hell I'll even make one for my dad!

altomic (author)2010-09-30

you could maybe put some LEDs in to the lid. using the case to ground you'd need only one wire.

some extra light.

suenami (author)2010-09-16

they make super brights without the need for a resistor in the circuit now? sorry, it's been a while since I did stuff like this.

Lhtrf (author)suenami2010-09-26

that was probably a pair of 1.5v batteries, and since leds run on 3.4v they would be underpowered, so no need for a resistor. (not all, but most colors do, i dont know about super brights, maybe they are 6v, so in that case i suppose he could have used 6v)

Boyscout201 (author)Lhtrf2010-09-26

I used two 3v button cells. After some testing I found they worked perfectly with my two super bright LEDs. I left the voltage gargen out because LEDs come in all kind of voltages and the builder will hafto make his or her own calculations based on what kind of LED they use and how bright they want to push it. Use ohms law or a resistance calculation or just test it a bunch of different ways to find what works best for your LEDs.

madmanmoe64 (author)2010-09-21
Really nice project, very clean looking.

Next step is, make one that has an LED and still can light a flame.

(made this when I was about 14 which is why it's kinda crummy.

Boyscout201 (author)madmanmoe642010-09-23

I like the graphic

UCBearcat (author)2010-09-22

This is an awesome project. Extremely practical. I like projects that do something more than just look cool.

weaponscollector94 (author)2010-09-20

i don't smoke but i have 12 different zippos. the reason is that i collect them. you should just do this with a cheap Chinese copy. those are only like $4:50 or less.

dscotthep (author)2010-09-09

Very cool project!

One suggestion: ground the LEDs to the metal case and eliminate the negative wiring.

Phoghat (author)dscotthep2010-09-16

A so, very wise. I bet you work on cars.

dscotthep (author)Phoghat2010-09-17

No, not cars. I do dabble in homebrew amateur radio...

Boyscout201 (author)dscotthep2010-09-13

I tried this in my original prototype and the battery was dead in 2 weeks. I'm not entirely sure but I think that this was caused by grounding it to the case.

noingwhat (author)2010-09-10

If you are like me and you enjoy over comlicating things, you can use an RGB led, and build a circuit so that it will flicker yellows, reds, blues, and whites, to make it seem more like a real flame.

Boyscout201 (author)noingwhat2010-09-13

How exactly would you build that circuit? I'm interested in knowing your thoughts because the simple one that comes to my mind would be too large to fit in a zippo.

noingwhat (author)Boyscout2012010-09-13

Not, sure, I am just starting to learn about circuitry and everything, I was just saying if there is someone with the knowledge, that would be really cool. You can probably put the circuit inside where the fuel tank used to be, I would think you would have enough room.

guyfrom7up (author)noingwhat2010-09-14

all you need is an RGB LED and either the smallest AVR or PIC microcontroller, an attiny13 or pic 10f200 (in a super small 6 pin sot23-6 package). You can hook up the leds directly to the i/o lines (I suggest a common anode RGB LED, microcontrollers sink better than they source), and if the circuit is being run off of 3 volts, you may not even need resistors (google around for minimilistic LED microcontroller circuits) because at lower voltages the microcontroller limits current. To get different colors simply pwm the 3 pins

noingwhat (author)guyfrom7up2010-09-14

Ummm... sure, to be honest, the most complicated circuit I understand how to build and why is a band-pass filter. I'm still learning, just started from scratch about a month or two ago, so.... maybe in a year or two I can look back at this post and be like, "Ohhh... that's what he was talking about", but for now - ?????.

guyfrom7up (author)noingwhat2010-09-15

haha well you can't really compare analog to digital. Personally I think it's good to learn analogue first, after all, that's really the only way for creative electronics. When you learn digital it's really easy to get into the habit of "throw a microcontroller in there" when simple (albeit clever) analog circuitry would have worked just as well or better.

BTW, a microcontroller is a little chip with pins that turn on/off as controlled by a program uploaded by a computer. It took me a while to figure that out when i was learning electronics :P

noingwhat (author)guyfrom7up2010-09-16

Yea, I can see that happening easily, I would probably do that once I get to that stage too, but for me that is a long way off. The way I am learning is by building one circuit at a time, and when I build it, I want to understand every single component, what it is, what it does, what it is doing there, and how to figure out it's value. So the most complicated thing I know as of right now would have to capacitive reactance, so microcontrollers, and even ICs are a long way off for me, but in due time.....

riff raff (author)noingwhat2010-09-16

There are already RGB LEDs with self-contained circuitry. You can't alter the cyclic time, however.

The ones I have fade gently into the next color/colors...they don't "blink."

Pheelix (author)2010-09-16

Thanks for the idea! I made one today and will refine my next one. I used my spark wheel ( after some reshaping ) to hold down the switch. Think I will be giving it to my son... that'll freak his mom out.

shizumadrive (author)2010-09-16

I like the side switch where the spark wheel used to be. The bottom of the case not so much.

Opalinus (author)2010-09-16

I have done a very similiar modification a few years ago, but I used a circuit to spare the second button cell.

Further informations (german):

Link to the circuit (german):

severepb (author)2010-09-09

cool idea. i may try this with some old zippos i have. enter this into the led contest

Phoghat (author)severepb2010-09-16

Send me your old ones and I'll replace them with new. New lamps for old!

severepb (author)severepb2010-09-09

woops, i just found it in the contest

chaosrob (author)2010-09-10

Very kool. Add a red or blue Laser Diode and turn it 'back' into a lighter. You also could use a magnetic reed switch to turn on the LEDs.

About This Instructable




Bio: Hello my name is Richard. I like to take things apart and make them better. My latest builds : Chronulator with Blue LED meters (Instructable coming ... More »
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